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Gentlemen of Bacongo Hardcover – June 1, 2009
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About the Author
Daniele Tamagni is an Italian photographer and art historian, with a particular fascination and focus on African culture and society. He moved into photography after working as a researcher in museums, galleries and churches. In 2007 he won the best portfolio in the Canon Young Photographer award for Italy with his images of Congolese dandies.
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A lot of people do not quite understand that the cult of sape is really about an elegant rebellion against the oppression of drabness, uniformity, and herd mentality that characterized many African countries in the post-Independence period. To see this as simply a troop of misguided dandies spending money on garments they can ill afford is to miss the point.
Sape is not just about dress. It is about assertion of character. Tamagni, the author, has captured this cultural resistance in a brilliant edition. I hope to see an expanded second edition that extends the coverage to similar trends in Congo Kin, Cote dÍvoire, and other francophone countries.
I was astonished when I first picked up this book, for the cover alone is enough to grab the eye and beckon at the treasures of Black style held within. Page after page of not only extraordinary haberdashery but Black MEN at their sartorial finest - refreshing and even comforting, in an era of sagging pants and t-shirts as style.
The book certainly affirms that the roots of Black Style in the African Diaspora lie in Africa, and is a reminder of the sartorial splendor of the African American men of my "old-school" generation. Although the book describes the origin of the incredible look of the Sape as originating in their contact with European fashion, make no mistake - this book is about style as it emanates from Africa itself.
Contrary to reviewers who believe that the book is physically too small, this book made me feel as if I had a treasure in hand, a small, secret tome for the cognoscenti of style. Although I'd love to see, one day, a "cocktail table" sized book on the Sape, this small size made me feel as if even *I* was a part of this exclusive, arcane society of serious dressers. This is an exquisite book, beautifully photographed yet unflinching in depicting the finery of these men (and even a few women) in the midst of urban squalor - not unlike the men in the 'hood, here in the US. I was reminded of the slick, sharp, studied dressing in my hometown Detroit, a generation ago, where sharp-suited men reigned in on the corners of 12th Street - down the street from Motown. Even today, some of the best dressed men in the world are in churches and offices of Detroit.
I hope that the book is reprinted, for I gave away the one copy that I had purchased for myself, to someone who literally begged it away from me. Next time, I will not let it go. It is a wonderful peek into a stunning slice of African life - that resonates all the way to African-America, and to fashionistos worldwide. It is a photographic textbook for sartorialists, an visual ode to the grace and beauty of Grown Black Men.
(Read more of me:[...])